Some problems with local atheist article

News24.com is one of those websites that makes you ashamed to share a species label with other humans. The comments sections often reads as though a bunch of blind, three-fingered lunatics have been set alight and told that typing really fast on a keyboard will put the flames out. Oh and someone is hitting them on the head with a hammer. Regardless, sometimes a brave soul emerges from the cloud of nonsense to write something comprehensible. Recently the user ‘Increasingly Annoyed’, wrote an article ‘Ask an atheist’. I have a number of small problems with it, though I think it is fairly well-written (though it uses some unnecessary phrasing) and refreshingly sober.

What is atheism?
Atheism is the lack of belief in gods, spirits and magic.

– He puts “magic” in with a list of things that atheists don’t believe in. This is more than likely true in practice but not true by definition. One can not be a believer in Yahweh and still believe in fairies and unicorns and magic. Many people who believe in “magick” are like this by definition (they don’t believe in gods, but believe in spells and other bullshit). Being an atheist doesn’t remove you from stupidity. It just means you haven’t got a catchall phrase to pin your stupidity on, called god.

I suppose this believer hostility also includes fervent antitheist atheists who also angrily and, with equal irrationality, proselytise against religion and faith.

“Antitheist atheists”? What is that? You mean people like me who are against organised religion and also don’t believe in god? One can be against organised theist religion and not necessarily be atheist.

He plays the “irrational” atheist fervor card but doesn’t provide any examples. I would still like to see what that is. I haven’t seen one, but I’m not denying it couldn’t exist. It seems that if you used logical arguments to get out of religion, it doesn’t matter how you consider atheism itself. The people themselves might be arseholes – no doubt – but that’s not the same as “antitheist atheists who also angrily and, with equal irrationality, proselytise against religion and faith.” It’s not equal irrationality, since the basis of disbelief is with foundation. The execution and expression of this disbelief is a whole other consideration. No one will kill anyone for not sharing their disbelief in fairies, their inability to collect stamps, and so on. This doesn’t mean atheists won’t kill or be murderers, but that is separate from a disbelief in a specific deity and what that means. However, I have a very low opinion of humans and wouldn’t put it beyond us to get physical about it. I just don’t see anyone murdering because you don’t agree with David Hume or Christopher Hitchens’s arguments – though I wouldn’t put it passed us.

I do agree that many secular legal laws are the descendants of religious laws

2. This may be nitpicking on my part but this is only half true. It’s Roman law, essentially. But, more importantly, it simply codified rules. And before we had legal systems we had, basically, tribal-cultural-religious ones. It gives it no more credence, or rather importance, than saying astrology was before astronomy.

We were moral animals two million years ago and we remain the same moral animals today.

3. I don’t know what this means. Homo sapiens have been around for about 150,000 years. Before that, it’s hard to consider us the “same” moral creatures.

So atheists have no faith?
No, atheists have no faith in gods, spirits and magic. Atheists do have faith. They have faith that certain laws of nature will continue unchanged most of the time. They trust facts without needing to be constantly reinforced with neurotic fear. The earth will continue to spin around the sun; the sun will continue to fuse hydrogen into higher elements; the light released by the sun will continue to be both wavelengths and particles.

Atheists will have faith that their friends aren’t treacherous and that their lovers and spouses will not cheat on them.

Atheists have faith that religious people have difficulty understanding that atheists have no belief in gods, spirits and magic.

4. Perhaps, worst of all, he uses the word “faith” differently to how religious people use it. Faith that your friends will still be your friends is not the same as “faith in god”; faith that the earth will spin, the sun will fuse hydrogen and so on is all based on scientific evidence and data.

Faith in god is distinctly not about evidence or data at all – one believes despite what the evidence states. That’s what makes religious faith stronger. We shouldn’t confuse these terms (which seem opposed to me) and simply give the whole term to the theists. It’s a horrible form of belief and we are directly trying to counter it since it is a vice dressed as virtue. (See photo above)

The ideas behind agnosticism are quite more complex than he’s made them out to be. I’m not entirely convinced it’s an actual position on this debate, but I haven’t fully formulated my thoughts on this enough.

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2 thoughts on “Some problems with local atheist article

  1. “Increasingly annoyed” says:”antitheist atheists who also angrily and, with equal irrationality, proselytise against religion and faith”, and you reply: “It’s not equal irrationality, since the basis of disbelief is with foundation”.

    Maybe yours is, but consider this thought experiment: Bob is an epistemic relativist of the worst kind. There are absolutely no true things, and even rank-ordering things for their likely truth value is an odious exercise for him. He thinks theism commits to far too much, and of course the same would apply to the law of gravity.

    So he’s an atheist, and also an a-atheist. Naturally, seeing as he’s also an ass, he gets angry when people assert that theism is true, or that atheism is true. But seeing as epistemic incoherence regarding the god proposition will put you in the damned camp as much as coherent atheism will, I’d suggest he would be considered an atheist (or an agnostic, if you’re into that sort of thing).

    Bob trumps even “Increasingly annoyed”‘s claim for equal irrationality – he’s more irrational than the theist.

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